It's advantage Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the Amway Canadian Championship final, but it remains all to play for following a wild 2-2 draw in the first leg in Montreal on Wednesday night.
The ‘Caps looked to be coasting after second-half strikes from Darren Mattocks and Pedro Morales had not only given Vancouver a two-goal lead but also two crucial away goals.
Montreal then stunned Vancouver with two late counters in a minute to set up a mouth-watering second leg at BC Place in two weeks’ time.
“We know we could have been better but we didn't lose and that was the most important thing, to still be in the tie after the first leg,” Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson told Vancouver's TSN 1410 radio after the match.
"I thought the first half was very dull but I was quite happy for it to be dull. The second half got interesting with the number of goals. I didn't really want to make it an open game after the first leg but now we go home to our place, we'll have our 20,000 fans and we'll make it a very, very uncomfortable night for them."
Robinson’s side had to endure some early pressure from the Impact, with goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi coming up with a couple of big saves in the opening stages, before then getting their noses in front with a strong second half showing.
As disappointed as Vancouver were by the late collapse, Robinson instilled in his players postgame that the final scoreline and the away goal lead that the 'Caps will take into the second leg is all that ultimately matters.
“When the referee blew the whistle at the end, we were a little disappointed," Tornaghi said. “We talked in the locker room and we just have to take this result. It doesn't matter how it came. If it had been the opposite and we were down two-nil and we scored two and get to 2-2 at the end of the game, it's still a great result. We have to just think of the result and not think a lot of how it came.”
Late goals aside, Robinson was pleased with how his makeshift backline dealt with the early Montreal pressure and views the whole experience as a key developmental tool for his young players.
“[When] you're away from home, against a very good Montreal team that's spent a lot of money, you've got to defend,” Robinson said. “Defending's an art. This young group enjoys defending … we need to learn to make the right decisions after you give a goal away and get your focus back because we lost our focus for two minutes and it cost us."
Robinson continued with his squad rotation during Vancouver's jam-packed August schedule, making eight changes from the team that dismantled Real Salt Lake 4-0 on Saturday in league play.
With all to play for now in the second leg at BC Place on August 26, the question Robinson now has to weigh up is just how strong a side does he put out to see the ‘Caps over the line. More rotation or his regular first teamers?
“It's too early for me to give an answer to that,” Robinson said. “I'll put a team out that I think can win the game. I want to win it as much [as anyone].”
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